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Finally, high refresh rates aren’t only for gaming laptops anymore

High refresh rates are a gaming feature through and through. Refresh rates higher than 60Hz have become standard on gaming laptops and monitors, and I get it. By far, it makes the biggest difference in games.

But there’s no reason it needs to be a feature exclusive to gaming. It’s become a high-end feature on smartphones, but I’ve been waiting for it to finally break into the world of normal laptops.

Today is that day. At CES 2021, Lenovo has finally announced a pair of non-gaming laptops that have a refresh rate that breaches 60Hz. The IdeaPad 5i Pro comes in two size variants, 14-inch and 16-inch, but both come with refresh rates over 60Hz. The 14-inch model comes with a 90Hz panel, while the 16-inch comes with a 120Hz panel. Of the dozens and dozens of non-gaming laptops that launched at CES, they were the only ones to include the feature.

Both of these laptops do come with a discrete GPU, so gaming will obviously benefit from the refresh rate as well. But honestly, I’d like to see these higher refresh panels come to laptops of all kinds. Why? Well, a higher refresh makes all animations and graphics smoother. Even moving the cursor around, scrolling down on a webpage, or inking with a stylus on the screen — they all benefit from a panel that can refresh its frames at a faster rate.

The way forward is clearly outlined in the way it has been rolled out on mobile devices. The 120Hz screen first came to the iPad Pro in 2017, and it has been rumored to eventually hit the iPhone for years now. Meanwhile, it’s been an advanced feature of Android phones from companies like Samsung and OnePlus. I’d expect the same thing to happen on laptops, first appearing in high-end machines and eventually trickling down.

There’s some bad news though. So far, these are the only non-gaming laptops to have higher refresh rate panels to have been announced. Secondly, neither will be coming to North America, according to Lenovo.

Still, there’s hope. As is true with many tech features, they need to be experienced by users to eventually become a priority in future releases. The same is true here. If Lenovo starts small and then gradually expands, other companies will follow. Until then, gaming laptops are still the only real way to get a high refresh screen today. Hopefully a couple of years from now, that’s not still true.

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